MIDO's ?revolutionary? moves in terms of dates and events is leading many companies to reassess their participation in various trade shows. Following the example of Safilo last fall, Allison and De Rigo, two other big Italian companies that have been renting a lot of space at the SILMO fair in Paris, told us that they are planning to pull out of the show next November, claiming that the dates are too late and that the business is too small to justify the investment. Marcolin may do the same, but it's not quite sure yet. Like Safilo, they all plan to maintain a small presence during the show by renting space in a hotel in Paris.

The next SILMO is still scheduled from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. Luxottica and many big non-Italian companies such as Marchon, Charmant and Silhouette said they will instead continue to support the well-established French show, as their clients have indicated that they will continue to come in spite of the Halloween holidays. However, the partial Italian pull-out is not keeping SILMO's organizers indifferent. Coupled with other considerations, it may lead them to advance its dates, too, as requested by more and more eyewear manufacturers, even from France.

A series of meetings on this issue is scheduled to take place in Paris next week, but nothing will happen until 2009. Depending on the availability of space in the Paris fairgrounds, SILMO may then be staged in late September or early October, half-way between its present dates and the new MIDO Business Forum, which is now scheduled to take place in Rome from Friday Sept. 4 to Sunday Sept. 6 next year.

It's too early to predict the reactions of exhibitors and visitors. Many exhibitors, especially from outside Italy, have told us that they will not do both the shows in Rome and in Paris. Most of them said that they had not yet made up their minds and that they were waiting to see what SILMO will do. Some said they saw a potential conflict of dates with other shows such MSOO in Moscow, scheduled this year for Sept. 1-4.

Some relatively small Italian eyewear companies have indicated their support for the Rome project. After all, Italy is the biggest market for most of them and a difficult one to penetrate for their foreign competitors. Besides its attractive cost, which is said to be three times lower than at a regular fair, the Rome show will give them an opportunity to show their collections earlier to their foreign distributors. Big manufacturers like Luxottica have their sales meetings with distributors in July, but early September can be a good date for the smaller ones, which don't have the financial resources to make a big splash to organize a similar event in an exotic location.

On the other hand, MIDO's decision to join forces with other accessory fairs next March 6-9 can make sense for the fashion sector, where sunglasses are acquiring a very important place, but it's not sure whether it will be fully supported by the opticians and by all the players in the sector, including manufacturers of lenses and equipment. It may even strengthen SILMO's position in the more technical segment of the eyewear market, as the Paris show is anchored by a leader like Essilor. Officials of various lens manufacturers indicated at last week's MIDO that they had not yet decided what to do next year.

A big supplier of equipment said it will probably scale down the size of its MIDO stand and see what will happen before committing itself for future years. Producers of frames and sunglasses said in general that they should be ready with their collections in mid-March, as they are for the show in New York. However, a small French design-oriented firm resented the earlier dates of MIDO, indicating that it preferred to have more time to develop its full collection.

It seems clear that the promotion of the ?made in Italy? label in prescription frames and sunglasses is one of the important aspects of the ?MIDO revolution.? Earlier dates are becoming a part of the seasonal fashion cycle, but they are less important for the launch of new lenses and new tools for the opticians, few of which are developed by Italian firms.

Anyhow, the new mid-March dates of the main MIDO fair have led two other trade shows to change their own dates. The International Vision Expo fair in New York has moved a couple of weeks later for next year to March 27-29. Usually held in February, the Vision-X fair in Dubai will take place on May 17-19, giving exhibitors a chance to show their very latest prototypes.

Last Monday MIDO closed its 38th edition with almost 46,000 visitors, about 1 percent higher than last year. There were more Italian visitors, while foreign attendance was stable. The exhibition space was about 2 percent bigger than one year ago, up by 1,000 square meters to 54,640. A total of 1,246 companies exhibited.

Organizers put up a nice gala evening at the fairgrounds around the theme of Italian filmmaking after World War Two. MIDO's 13-year-old anti-counterfeiting office intervened 25 times during the show.

The mood was generally buoyant, but some eyewear manufacturers, especially the smaller ones, noted a certain softening in the growth of the eyewear market, both in the USA and in Europe. ANFAO, the Italian eyewear industry association, noted that apparent consumption of prescription frames and sunglasses was virtually flat in Italy during the first quarter of 2008.

In terms of value, apparent consumption at the wholesale level went up by 5.9 percent in 2007, tapering down toward the end of the year. The value of Italian production rose by 10.9 percent to €2.77 billion and exports went up by 11.6 percent to €2.31 billion, while imports grew by only 4.8 percent to €690 million. Export growth of 10-11 percent is estimated for the first quarter of this year, but lower figures are expected for the balance of this year.